Invisible borders in educational technology research? Comparing research topics in English-language journals across Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom
The proposed working group argues that, despite publishing in the same English-language journals, educational technology researchers from different countries continue to pursue distinct research topics and ground them in different theoretical backgrounds, leading to country-specific topical clusters. This translates into questions on which terminology researchers from different countries use to describe their research, what topics they focus on and in which theoretical approaches or frameworks they operate in.
In four complementing contributions, the working group addresses these questions, through a bibliometric analysis of 3,671 article abstracts and keywords sourced from 26 English-language journals in the field of education and education research with a focus on educational technology. For the three countries Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom, distinct topics unfold, which are then discussed comparatively.
Beiträge des Panels
Research Topics in Educational Technology Journals. A Comparative View.
Bibliometric analysis has, in conjunction with topic modelling, emerged as a suitable approach to delineate and quantify research topics in journal publications (e.g., Bond & Buntins, 2018). In order to answer the questions which research topics are characteristic for Spain, Germany and the UK, which terminology is used to describe the respective topics and in which theories these are grounded, a bibliometric analysis was conducted using the Bibliometrix package in R (Aria & Cuccurullo, 2017). Abstracts, author keywords and references were retrieved from a total of 26 journals, indexed in the Web of Science database (Education and Education Research). As a proxy for the scope of educational technology, journals were included whose titles included terms such as educational technology, computers, technology enhanced. A total of 3,671 articles by authors with institutional affiliations in Spain, Germany or the UK were considered in the analysis; covering the time period from 2011 to 2020.
Results indicate that research across these countries revolves around learning and higher education as the most frequent terms but then deviates considerably regarding their research focus. They also differ in the theoretical framing of their research, with a larger number of highly cited references stemming from the field of (educational) psychology. This presentation provides the ground for the country-specific findings, explains the approach used and also delineates its limitations.
Spain: The predominance of technological terminology.
Drawing on 1,326 articles from 25 educational technology journals in English language, the bibliometric analysis shows that many topics refer to technological aspects, such as learning analytics, interactive learning environments or massive open online courses (MOOCs), and reflect the predominant presence of computer scientists connected to the educational technology field in international English language journals. This fact becomes more evident with the presence of terms like engineering education and engineering, unlike Germany and the UK. However, it is also noticeable the use by these academics – and a reduced number of educational ones - of relevant terms related to pedagogy and education, such as active learning or teaching/learning strategies, and the research interest on cyberbullying and adolescents.
In addition, from previous research in educational technology journals in English and Spanish language, two different communities with reduced communication among them was acknowledged (Marín & Zawacki-Richter, 2019). This has an important effect on the terminology used in the field, which includes literal translations that do not reflect same meanings (e.g., evaluation vs. assessment) (Castañeda et al., 2020), and missing terms that are more present in the Spanish community – and in the educational sciences. Content analysis of Spanish educational technology journals show the relevance of these other terms currently, with a focus on learning (e.g., Marín et al., 2017).
Germany: Media in Education.
Previous research has shown that Germany-based scientists in the field of Educational Technology are – with exceptions - largely absent in international publications (Buntins et al., 2018). In contrast to the multifaceted discussions expressed in German-language outlets and the respective community, the internationally visible discourse in the field of educational technology consists mainly of psychologically influenced actors.
For the identification of terminology and research topics prevalent for the German case, 808 articles from 25 educational technology journals in English language were included in the analysis. The analysis indicates that it is research revolving around cognitive load, multimedia theory and usability that is predominantly found across the sample. Compared to the other countries, social, collaborative and interactive learning plays a comparatively minor role. Surprisingly, however, the term social alone occurs very frequently. Also the term Media in Education is still common and unusually in all other countries (Buntins et al., 2018), serving as an indicator for literal translation of community-specific terminology (Mayrberger & Kumar, 2014).
In conclusion, topics that Germany-based researchers bring to the international discussion on educational technology mainly stem from psychological and technology-focused research.
United Kingdom: Separate Communities within the Community.
With 1,537 abstracts, the United Kingdom is most strongly represented throughout the 26 sampled journals. Drawing on these 1,537 articles, the bibliometric analysis shows that broadly two larger communities can be discerned that UK researchers engage in, one focusing on topics related to rather formal technology-mediated learning environments, such as higher and distance education. However, a second community revolves around research on social media, explicitly mentioning Twitter and Facebook.
In addition, frequently found terms include gender, internet addiction and personality. UK-based researchers more frequently ground their research - or include as references – authors with stronger roots in pedagogy and education than do researchers in Spain and Germany. With a strong history of educational technology research (Bond et al., 2019), alongside the British Journal of Educational Technology being based in the UK and English being most likely the working knowledge of most researchers in the UK context, looking at the contextual factors of scientific publishing extends the view beyond the bibliometric analysis.